By Jodi Osborne, Arts Manager for The City of Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division
Born and raised in Italy, Robie Benve is an Upper Arlington resident and artist, found her passion for painting after a career in business. In addition to work as an artist, Robie is art coordinator at the OSU Faculty Club. Her work will be on display at Arts on Arlington on July 28 and during the week leading up to the event.
Jodi: What inspired you to become a full time artist?
Robie: Even though my background is in accounting and business, I always felt like I could paint, if I just had the time. I apologize to any artists that may have over-heard me saying: “I can do that.”
When we moved to Columbus, I took a year off work, and I found myself painting every day. Being free of the confinements of a full-time job, I gravitated toward the things that would give me more joy, and the top one was painting.
The ice-breaker was a print on canvas that my daughter wanted to buy from a department store and I said: “I can do that.” It was 12 years ago, and she still points to that painting hanging in her room and reminds me that I became an artist thanks to her.
After that first painting for my girl, I copied some masters, painted still lives and I started participating in several online painting challenges. I was painting seven days a week. It felt great; I had found my bliss.
I soon realized that if I was going to do this “artist thing” seriously, I had to waste a huge amount of square feet before it could be good. The only way was to study and to practice, practice, practice. So, I started taking classes, reading books and watching videos. Painting became central in my life, something I could not live without.
Jodi: How would a friend describe your personality? How is your personality expressed in your paintings?
Robie: Often friends comment on how they think I am very active and how I keep a positive spirit. I moved to the USA from Italy to stay with my husband Vincenzo Coppola, thinking we would stay only a year. That was 1999, ah! From the beginning, I decided to make the best of the situation and I started volunteering and networking. That helped my English and my morale. When I found a job, I worked hard, even when it wasn’t well paid. I believe good things come to you when you give your best and you stay open to opportunities. I live my life with a positive outlook and I try to surround myself with people that are cheerful and generous towards others.
The same thing goes with art, I like to fill my house with things that make me smile. Sometimes, I get worried or upset about social events, but I can’t let my art come from a place of anger or grief. I am inspired by positive thoughts and I love to think that the viewer can perceive that.
Jodi: How has living in Upper Arlington shaped your identity as an artist? What is your favorite thing about the community?
Robie: When we were looking for homes in Columbus, I read statistics and info about all the municipalities. We loved the fact that UA had top schools and great services, but I was a little skeptical about the lack of diversity. I have to say, since then, we met so many wonderful people in Upper Arlington, and it truly feels like home now. I love to take walks, they help clean my head and inspire me. There is so much green in UA, the lovely streets and parks in UA are perfect for walking or even biking.
Also, I love that there is a great art program that has several exhibits and events throughout the year and culminates with the UA Labor Day Arts Festival.
Jodi: How do you collaborate with other artists?
Robie: The artistic community in Central Ohio is amazing, very vital and fermenting with opportunities. In the 12 years that I have been living here, I got to meet lots of amazing artists. I love talking, planning, critiquing and exhibiting with other artists. Each collaboration, event and group exhibit has enriched me as a person and nurtured wonderful friendships.
I am a member of the Ohio Plein Air Society, the Ohio Art League, the Central Ohio Branch of the National League of American Pen Women and the Dublin Area Art League, for which I’ve been most active and through which I met a lot of wonderful creatives.
Jodi: Why is it important to support local artists?
Robie: I wish everyone would stop buying mass-produced art for their homes and look to local artists to buy original works instead. All it takes is going to local art exhibits, artist studios or local art galleries and you can find art for every taste and any wallet. There is an amazing amount of talent around us.
I am fortunate to work with Marcia Evans Gallery in the Short North. Marcia has been very supportive of my work, and, like other gallery owners, she can really counsel a customer on what looks good with their décor.
Most of the artists I know work hard and put many hours into each piece. When people like it, we are super happy, but when people decide to invest in an original piece of art, it’s a true blessing. Every time original art is purchased, there is an artist somewhere doing a happy dance while being inspired to create more.
Jodi: Where is your favorite place to paint?
Robie: I am blessed enough to have several favorite places to create. They allow me to keep my environment flexible and varied. Each place provides a unique kind of energy and inspiration.
My top two are my home studio, formerly known as my kids’ playroom, and my studio at High Road Gallery in Worthington, where I share a 200-year-old home with other 13 artists.
Another favorite spot is the painting studio at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, where I’ve been taking classes and workshops since 2011 – I love that space. And last but not least, the outdoors. I have been a plein air painter for many years until I got allergic to oils. Now using acrylic and mixed media, painting outdoors is a bit more challenging, but I’m slowly getting back to painting on location.
For more information about Robie and her work, visit robiebenve.com. Stop by The Mallway at Old Arlington July 25-29 to see work by Robie and other local artists. Be sure to attend the Arts in Arlington event July 28 for an evening of food, live music, art and art-making activities with a Beer Garden poured by The Daily Growler.
This article is brought to you by Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art, an initiative of the Greater Columbus Arts Council to raise the visibility of Columbus-based artists. Learn more at ColumbusMakesArt.com.